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View Full Version : Horrible Trackpads on Apple Portables - Commonplace??


Ryan1524
Sep 5, 2003, 01:47 PM
i'm wondering. i've been to some stores that carry apple products and tried several iBooks and Powerbooks. althou i love them very much, there's always one thing i hate about them. their trackpads are incredibly unresponsive, slow, jumpy, etc etc..

to describe my experience, which are fairly similar in each encounter: the trackpads are very annoying, it takes more pressure to move the cursor than many other touchpads i've used, and if i put just slightly more, it jumps away so far that i'll ahve to drag it back - which is not easy.

is it a common occurence in apple touchpads? is that why i always hear about people despising the trackpads so much in mac forums? i thought this is very odd, and maybe it's just because of excessive use - it is in a store after all. But, i've tried a 12" PB which still looks very pristine, and it has the same condition, okay, maybe it just looks pristine, but been played with too many times. next time was a 17" PB. i doubt the unit has been played excessively, since the store is in Montreal and canada always get new products later than the states. Also, the store is very secluded, if i wasn't looking for the exact address, i would've passed the store like it wasn't there. the entrance was hidden and once inside, i had to go up three floors and down a corridor to reach the not so big store. so i doubt that many people ever come up there. but same experience with the trackpad. what gives??

please tell me there's something you can adjust, or maybe they're just defective or been exposed to too much use. (althou i doubt it) otherwise, i'll have to say that apple, you need to fix your trackpads. :(

comments? expeiences? thx.

mactastic
Sep 5, 2003, 01:52 PM
Well, I have to say it did take me a little while to get comfortable using the trackpad on my TiBook. At first I had problems like you describe, but this was my first laptop. After a few weeks I didn't notice it anymore. As far as I'm concerned the trackpad is fine. It sure beats the heck out of those silly blue stud things in the middle of pc laptop keyboards.

Ryan1524
Sep 5, 2003, 01:53 PM
i've used trackpads a lot. so it's not me not used to the idea of it. and the first time i used it, i got into it just like that *click. no hassle. i put a soft touch on it and move my finger around. it was a no brainer. but with these apple portables, i ahve to 'try' and measure how much pressure i need to put in, so that they don't jump to the edge of the screen. weird. it's like they're not cooperating. lol. :p

shadowfax
Sep 5, 2003, 02:08 PM
it's a perspectives issue with the trackpad. apple laptops are certainly a bit different. the maximum sensitivity is a lot lower than on most PC laptops. but if you spend a few days on your iBook or PowerBook, you will get used to it and hate the PC style. that's my experience, anyways.

i've gotten so good with my trackpad on my tibook that i can often do photoshop stuff better with it than a normal mouse.

they aren't bad trackpads. if you are finding jumpy ones, you either suck at using a trackpad or the trackpad/driver software is malfunctioning.

i wouldn't write off an apple laptop because the trackpad is different. like the OS itself, it's just something new to get used to.

mactastic
Sep 5, 2003, 02:11 PM
I'm amazed how well I can get around with my trackpad as well. The only time I hate it is when its hot out and my fingertip is sweaty and sticks. The click-and-drag thing is awesome too, I was expecting that to be much more of a pain than it is.

Ryan1524
Sep 5, 2003, 02:12 PM
of course i won't write them off from such a small issue. but it is an issue. since it seems to be less....intuitive. so far, apple's philosophy has been ease of use. so i wonder what's really causing this. i mean, how hard is it to installa more sensitive touchpad??

ColoJohnBoy
Sep 5, 2003, 02:34 PM
Oh lordy, don't judge the trackpads by the store demos. I used to work at an Apple Store and all the time we would have people, adults and children, pound on the trackpads thinking they had to click, completely unaware of the button right below it. This would really screw it up. Bear in mind those suckers have taken a lot of abuse. I've had three Mac laptops (Tangerine iBook, 800 MHz TiBook, and my 1 GHz TiBook) and they've all had great trackpads.

shadowfax
Sep 5, 2003, 02:34 PM
Originally posted by Ryan1524
of course i won't write them off from such a small issue. but it is an issue. since it seems to be less....intuitive. so far, apple's philosophy has been ease of use. so i wonder what's really causing this. i mean, how hard is it to installa more sensitive touchpad?? what do you mean? i don't think you can replace the trackpad with a different one (except another of the same one). besides, that's not the issue, really. the sensitivity is a software setting, more than likely... it's probable that you could hack that, if you really wanted to.

i'd also like to reiterate that the trackpad is perfectly intuitive. you're just used to a different implementation of a trackpad. it's a perspectives issue.

if you had been driving a car with the driver's side on the left, and got a car with the side on the right, would you call it less intuitive? no, that would be stupid. it's just different. a more applicable demonstration is a car. every car model has a different gas pedal sensitivity. you have to get used to it--which usually doesn't take much time. and the sensitivity on that is much harder to adjust...

i wouldn't make an issue of it at all. it's not worth the trouble. i was annoyed at first, but i took a chill pill and now that i am used to it, i think it's perfect. this is a case where i think you should change your own habit or take the time (and it will probably be a hell of a lot of it) to change the setting by hacking the system. but it's not really worth complaining about... like i said, you will get used to it very quickly, and the slower speed of the trackpad actually will make you more accurate with tracking later.

amin
Sep 5, 2003, 02:48 PM
I replaced my VAIO laptop with a 12" PB, and I find no difference in the degree of control afforded by the trackpad. I do find the Apple trackpad to be a bit less sensitive to taps, but I have gotten used to that.

Ryan1524
Sep 5, 2003, 03:05 PM
afaik, there's an option for the trackpad to accept taps as clicks. so i don't think the tapping or clicking the button is the difference between the implementation. since this is a matter of adjuting sensitivity, it would certainly be nice if the pad has a wider range of sensitivity setting to accomodate people's different styles. :) i tried maximizing the sens. but it's still not what i hoped for. i guess i'll just have to get used to it.:p

kylos
Sep 5, 2003, 03:22 PM
I've noticed with my iBook that my trackpad has worn down with use. You can easily tell I'm right-handed by the wear pattern.:D I've also noticed that this makes the trackpad more sensitive. Too much, almost. At times my cursor will move when my finger is resting above the trackpad. Might have something to do with humidity.

shadowfax
Sep 5, 2003, 03:23 PM
Originally posted by Ryan1524
afaik, there's an option for the trackpad to accept taps as clicks. so i don't think the tapping or clicking the button is the difference between the implementation. since this is a matter of adjuting sensitivity, it would certainly be nice if the pad has a wider range of sensitivity setting to accomodate people's different styles. :) i tried maximizing the sens. but it's still not what i hoped for. i guess i'll just have to get used to it.:p yeah, that's what i was talking about. you max it out, and it's still not as fast as you think it should be, at first. but leave it there and you'll get to like it after awhile.

i agree that it would be nice to have a wider range... but it's not a big deal at all, of course :)

Ryan1524
Sep 5, 2003, 03:24 PM
now that you mentioned it, maybe it's the finish on the pads. since if i recall, most pc notebooks don't paint their pads, hence the common black pads. could it be?

shadowfax
Sep 5, 2003, 03:26 PM
Originally posted by Kyle?
I've noticed with my iBook that my trackpad has worn down with use. You can easily tell I'm right-handed by the wear pattern.:D I've also noticed that this makes the trackpad more sensitive. Too much, almost. At times my cursor will move when my finger is resting above the trackpad. Might have something to do with humidity. i have noticed that mine is worn down a bit too. it's just very smooth in the middle, and stays so when i clean the oil off. the funniest is my space bar. i almost always just hit it with my right thumb, so that spot on the button is VERY smooth, but the rest of the button is pretty normal.

shadowfax
Sep 5, 2003, 03:29 PM
Originally posted by Ryan1524
now that you mentioned it, maybe it's the finish on the pads. since if i recall, most pc notebooks don't paint their pads, hence the common black pads. could it be? i doubt it's the finish. again, this is not an issue of the pad not being able to read motion. it's the software measuring that motion and translating it to motion in the mouse on the screen. you could double the motion that it makes on the screen per motion of your finger on the pad, and the problem would be solved. that's the easy way, anyhow. i suppose that the actually motion that the pad registers may be affected by the finish on it, but it's not relevant to how they have adjusted the software to apply those readings... you can change those at will, with great ease, if you know what the hell you're doing.

patrick0brien
Sep 5, 2003, 04:29 PM
-All

Remember, trackpads don't work by "touch" itself per se, there are no moving parts and no areas that deal with pressure.

A trackpad works by projecting above it's surface an electromagnetic grid, and it detects your finger by the impedance upon that field.

Why do we care? Well, it's important to keep your fingers dry and clean - you'll get more consistent performance.

Try this: Dip your finger into some water, or just wash your hands without rying them completely. Then use the trackpad. You may notice that it get particularly sensitive at first. But as your wet finger leaves little droplets behind as you drag it over the surface, you will notice that the pointer wil get very erratic - dare say 'bonkers'. This is due to the semiconductivity of the water.

I tell you this because many people think that trackpads are pressure based, and don't think to keep their fingers dry and clean, so they get funky pointer behavior. Also, over time, you can coat the trackpad with a varnish that will impede on it's own, thus reducing performance regardless of how clean your fingers are.

Saltwater and sugarwater are the worst.

Also, Apple calibrates their trackpads with the grid very close to the surface, thus forcing you to actually touch the pad. Dells' fields are somewhat looser, this allows you to move the pointer without actually touching the surface, but I have a problem with accidental movement with those.

mactastic
Sep 5, 2003, 04:50 PM
Originally posted by patrick0brien
This is due to the semiconductivity of the water.

I'm sure you meant that the conductivity is due to the minerals (mainly salt) in the water. Pure water is non-conductive correct?

Stelliform
Sep 5, 2003, 05:23 PM
Originally posted by mactastic
I'm sure you meant that the conductivity is due to the minerals (mainly salt) in the water. Pure water is non-conductive correct?

Well that is being a little nit picky.

If you notice he said "the water". Even pure water will have minerals in it if it is coming off of your finger. (It will pick up the impurities from your skin.)

Ryan1524
Sep 5, 2003, 05:31 PM
hahah. yes, i think he's being a little picky. but we're not here to debate water. :D

question to PB and iB users. when you set tap to click, can you tap and drag objects with relative ease?

mactastic
Sep 5, 2003, 05:33 PM
Originally posted by Stelliform
Well that is being a little nit picky.


Yeah probably. The only reason I mention it is because a lot of people don't realize that. Just a pet peeve of mine.

Sorry!

Ryan1524
Sep 5, 2003, 05:36 PM
Originally posted by mactastic
Yeah probably. The only reason I mention it is because a lot of people don't realize that. Just a pet peeve of mine.

Sorry!

althou pure/distilled water is non conducting, most water that we will encounter in the real world would have minerals in them, so it's safer to assume that water is conducting, unless you're in a lab. this is why you pay attention in HS chem kids. :D

shadowfax
Sep 5, 2003, 05:40 PM
Originally posted by Ryan1524
hahah. yes, i think he's being a little picky. but we're not here to debate water. :D

question to PB and iB users. when you set tap to click, can you tap and drag objects with relative ease? first off, let me say that I HATE that feature--tap to click, drag, whatever. BUT, i got a good friend of mine to switch from her PC and get an iBook this July, and she set it to do that, and was able to perform the task with quite natural ease right off.

crazzyeddie
Sep 5, 2003, 05:42 PM
There is a program that boosts mouse/trackpad performance higher than that of Apple's. Its called MouseZoom. One of my PC friends needed it after using the max. speed setting on Windows and it works perfectly for him.

patrick0brien
Sep 5, 2003, 06:09 PM
Originally posted by mactastic
I'm sure you meant that the conductivity is due to the minerals (mainly salt) in the water. Pure water is non-conductive correct?

-mactastic

Well yes, that is what I was referring to. Actually, distilled water is slightly conductive, about 20% or so. But, as you know, throw salt in there and that conductivity doubles (at saturation).

Bluefusion
Sep 5, 2003, 06:24 PM
I'm VERY surprised no one's mentioned this!

The OS X default is set too low!

All Apple Store machines in my experience use the OS X default, which SUCKS. Go to System Preferences (via the Dock or Apple Menu), click Mouse, and adjust the speed all the way up. It's the only possible way to work on the Apple trackpads, but once you turn it up, they're quite good.

(Although the 12" PB's got a weird-ass trackpad; I can't stand it for some reason... and I've used like 40 of them too....and it's ONLY the 12", the TiBook and 17" are fine, as are the iBooks...)

bousozoku
Sep 5, 2003, 09:17 PM
My Wallstreet trackpad was very much like some of the trackpads on demo machines--jumpy and difficult to use. A few demo machines I've tried are very smooth and easy to use. I never found a setting that made the machine comfortable.

rainman::|:|
Sep 5, 2003, 10:35 PM
having had experience for many years on mac laptops, i have to say their quality has decreased some. my old 3400 has better control than anything after the clamshell ibook, at least it seems to me. i think some of it is that the texture seems to have changed a bit, it seemed you got a little more friction on the older ones, which was good for finer control, while my fingers glide over the newer ones too easily.

pnw

Daveman Deluxe
Sep 5, 2003, 11:01 PM
Over time, it seems as if the texture has rubbed off of my iBook's trackpad somewhat. The center is almost perfectly smooth. It doesn't seem to have affected tracking, but it feels as if my finger drags a bit on the smooth portion.

5300cs
Sep 5, 2003, 11:09 PM
Originally posted by mactastic It sure beats the heck out of those silly blue stud things in the middle of pc laptop keyboards. haha, I started out on a Toshiba with those "nipple" cursors things, the trackpads ARE better. I used to like the trackballs that the Duos & original PowerBooks had. My old 500Mhz iBook's trackpad got real shinny after 2.5years of use and started acting up a llittle.

shadowfax
Sep 6, 2003, 01:39 AM
Originally posted by Bluefusion
I'm VERY surprised no one's mentioned this!

The OS X default is set too low!

All Apple Store machines in my experience use the OS X default, which SUCKS. Go to System Preferences (via the Dock or Apple Menu), click Mouse, and adjust the speed all the way up. It's the only possible way to work on the Apple trackpads, but once you turn it up, they're quite good. actually, i think we all knew this. i sure took it for granted. our problem is that, even after you max out the tracking speed, coming from a PC laptop it's usually still a good bit slower. that's the problem many of these people are having. i certainly felt that way at first, till i got used to it set at max.

jefhatfield
Sep 6, 2003, 08:39 AM
a long time ago, apple did have problems with the cursor mysteriously popping up to the left hand corner on top of the screen on old clamshell ibooks

billyboy
Sep 6, 2003, 04:36 PM
I reckon Shadowfax´analogy to a different car is about right. Just get used to a change.

I can whizz around with the trackpad and click, but not the first time I didnt. It seemed rubbish compared to my PC laptop, but I persevered and am glad I did. And now it is quite funny to see someone else trying it for the first time. The biggest critics are those who are very profficient on their PC laptop, which goes back to the original point. Just because a trackpad is different doesnt mean it is worse.

A default setting is just that, not a "perfect" setting, bear in mind the number of features for people with various disabilities... so go to preferences and change it to suit.

Ryan1524
Sep 6, 2003, 07:00 PM
Originally posted by billyboy
I reckon Shadowfax´analogy to a different car is about right. Just get used to a change.

I can whizz around with the trackpad and click, but not the first time I didnt. It seemed rubbish compared to my PC laptop, but I persevered and am glad I did. And now it is quite funny to see someone else trying it for the first time. The biggest critics are those who are very profficient on their PC laptop, which goes back to the original point. Just because a trackpad is different doesnt mean it is worse.

A default setting is just that, not a "perfect" setting, bear in mind the number of features for people with various disabilities... so go to preferences and change it to suit.

i understand that now. but what i hoped was that anyone can get used to it the first time they used it. no 'getting used to' it. just use it, and you can feel right at home.

but then again, it's kinda nice. say a pc lappy user comes in and wants to play with it, they'll probly get frustrated by the trackpad and leave it alone before they can do any damage (if any). this also applies to non apple lappy users. :D althou i don't think it's very good for demo units to behave this way. althou it can be (mistakenly) blamed on excessive use, it can act like a deterrent to someone that just wants to 'test-drive' the unit. (me)

Bluefusion
Sep 6, 2003, 07:22 PM
Yeah, all I was saying is that the default is HORRIBLY slow, especially in use for demoing to prospective Switchers. Someone coming from the PC will use the OS X default and think "What on earth is wrong with this slow computer?"

At least with the setting all the way up, it stands a chance in the eye of a prospective new Mac purchaser...

There was extensive research done on the usage of a mouse cursor within a GUI, by Xerox PARC, Microsoft, and Apple. What they determined is that in test studies, the faster the mouse cursor goes, the faster the machine is "believed" to be. Microsoft took this direction, sacrificing precision for the "speed" factor. This is part of why PC users seem to think Macs are so much slower--coming from Windows, the Mac cursor does seem to drag...

Other research, however, indicated that such a fast mouse speed was also the source of long-term problems, and that if someone used a "fast" setting exclusively, over time they became unable to accurately click on small items, ie. they lost their ability for precise, tiny motions because all of their activity involved quick sweeping strokes. Therefore Apple went the opposite direction in Systems 1 through 6, making the mouse more precise (and quite a bit slower).

Xerox's test systems, as well as BeOS, used a slightly different adjustment scale that takes some getting used to, regardless of being on Windows or the MacOS. It's really not like either, but it leans more towards the Mac style--it's VERY precise, and usually slow, but it accelerates a bit too quickly for my taste.

In System 7, Apple fine-tuned the adjustment curve to provide quicker movement with longer strokes as well as more precise movement with shorter strokes. This gives the Mac OS one of the most precise cursor movement algorithms on the market, as well as being able to whizz around pretty quickly (though nowhere near as quickly as Windows). The algorithms were again tuned in OS X, and unless my hand deceives me, I believe 10.1 actually changed the cursor movement, but only slightly.

So Windows will always have a faster cursor; it's the way the system is built. However, it's ironic that many of the targets in Windows are so tiny and therefore so hard to acquire (XP window widgets, anyone? What is that, a 1-pixel space between them? :)), and yet the mouse acceleration is so high... but I guess some things never will make sense. Also the fact that Windows presents multiple menubars in the first place, in a system where it's definitely harder than it should be to hit them (Fitt's Law and all that--the Mac menubar is accessible by slamming the cursor all the way to the top, which is really easy)...

OK, I'll stop now :P

Ryan1524
Sep 6, 2003, 07:45 PM
maybe they should use a faster movement as default to help with those demo stores and an 'enhanced' and more accurate scanning mode for people who wants it. but then the more advanced function woudn't be default and it won't be apple's signature of quality anymore. :p ;)